Just last night I was thinking about the Oscars ceremony from a few days ago – not for the obvious reason that the best picture was mis-announced (oops!) – but because Denis Villeneuve’s film Arrival, based on the story by acclaimed sci-fi writer Ted Chiang, picked up the award for best sound editing.
You’ve probably read about Arrival already, as it came out months ago, but of the fairly small number of films I watched in 2016, it was my favourite. Its appeal struck me from several directions, but I’d cite in particular the sympathetic and generally decent, human-like behaviour of its characters, the intelligence of both the science and fiction parts of science fiction, and the general sense of atmosphere that was conjured up on screen. In fact, I’d recommend it just for the first encounter between the main character and the alien creatures – it’s fantastically eerie and, well, alien-feeling, but there’s much more to recommend it. The message of the film is worth mentioning too, as it’s refreshingly positive without being in any way maudlin or cheesy.
Anyway, I didn’t need to buy the book, but ended up doing so completely on a whim, in the space of a few seconds, without having to take a single step in any direction.
My Kindle is by no means the latest thing; in fact it’s a 2010 model, the one with the clunky, awkward keyboard tacked on. And yet, I was able to interrupt my reading of the book I was actually pursuing at that moment (The Wretched of Muirwood, by Jeff Wheeler, which I’m so far enjoying very much), have a little peruse of the Kindle Storefront in strangely laggy, black and white raiment, and with a twitch of my thumb, wire £5-something in the direction of Chiang esq. and his esteemed colleagues.
The actual book is not called Arrival, but rather Stories of Your Life and Others (it being a collection of novellas, of which the source material, Stories of Your Life, is one). I’ve not finished it yet (nor read any of the other novellas the volume contains), but have already noticed some interesting differences between the writing and the film. I won’t say one is better or worse, but the stories are each clearly aware that they are being told through two different media. Perhaps most interestingly (and this is something that strikes you more when you read the book), although based on a very short piece of work I never got the impression of the film story having been stretched out or padded.
I’ll get back to you when I’ve consumed more of the book, as well as Jeff Wheeler’s work, but in the meantime I’m going to keep my Kindle’s wi-fi switched off. I didn’t need another book as it was, but the convenience of the purchase, along with not having to wonder where I’m going to put the thing, how long it’ll take in the post etc. etc. just make it a little too convenient.